TEHRAN – The spokesman of the Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Committee has reiterated Tehran’s position that the issue of Britain’s debt to Iran is not related to dual nationals’ release from Iranian prisons.
“The British government’s debt to the Iranian government is for the purchase of Chieftain tanks before the [Islamic] Revolution and this debt is completely clear and there’s no ambiguity about it,” Mehr on Monday quoted Abolfazl Amouei as saying.
Amouei said the money owed by the UK belongs to the Iranian people and should be paid back.
“There is no relation between the issue of some prisoners and the issue of Britain’s debt to the Islamic Republic of Iran,” he added.
The MP also hinted that the British government should first show its own goodwill toward Iran if it expects the Islamic Republic to show goodwill.
British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace has acknowledged for the first time that he is actively seeking to pay a debt to the Iranian government owed over a decades-old arms deal to secure the release of British dual nationals including Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.
Wallace assured lawyers acting for the families that the government was exploring every legal avenue to pay the debt, which for the first time he formally acknowledged the government owes, The Guardian reported on Friday.
The UK is thought to owe as much as £400m to the Iranian government arising from the non-delivery of Chieftain tanks ordered by the late Iranian Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi before the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
International arbitration in 2008 ruled the UK owed the debt, but in subsequent protracted court battles, lawyers acting for International Military Services, the Ministry of Defense’s now-defunct arms sales agency, have questioned not only the debt’s size but at times whether any debt was payable.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said on Saturday that Britain’s debt to Iran has no connection to the case of Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a dual British-Iranian national who is jailed in Iran, and other dual nationals imprisoned in the country.
“The British government has a definite 40-year long debt to Iran and it doesn’t matter whether a British official acknowledges this debt or not,” Khatibzadeh said.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran, through different communication lines and in all talks that it has had with the British side, has emphasized that this definite debt must be paid by the British government and this issue is not related to any other issue,” he said.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe, 41, has been detained in Iran for more than four years on charges of trying to orchestrate a soft overthrow of the Islamic Republic.
The prosecutor general of Tehran had stated in October 2017 that she was being held for running “a BBC Persian online journalism course which was aimed at recruiting and training people to spread propaganda against Iran.”